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YMCA free ‘Safety Around Water’ program teaches children water safety skills

Published on: March 1, 2018

PHOTO COURTESY OF Lalita Llerena
Tampa Metropolitan YMCA is focused on preventing needless tragedies in child drownings.

By YVETTE C. HAMMETT

In the time it takes to run through a few missed calls on a cell phone or to load laundry into a dryer, a tiny life can be snuffed out due to drowning.

Florida led the country in drowning deaths of children ages 1 through 4 in 2017, a startling statistic that keeps the Tampa Metropolitan YMCA focused on teaching more children the basics of drowning prevention.

The Y has teamed up this year with the Tampa Bay Rays to provide its free Safety Around Water program not only during spring break, Monday, March 12 through Thursday, March 15, but also two more times before summer ends.

The program is designed to keep kids safe at the beach, pool, lake and while boating. The free program is open to the entire community, beginners and non-swimmers, ages 3 through 12 years.

“Safety Around Water is the national water safety program through the YMCA of USA,” said Tampa Metropolitan Y Aquatic Experience Director Amanda Walker. “It’s offered free to members and nonmembers. It will provide essential water safety skills during a four-day course that are meant to help reduce the risk of drowning.”

There are several sequences taught during the four 40-minute sessions. One is back floating, taught in a sequence called Swim, Float, Swim. There is another called Jump, Push, Turn, Grab.

“First and foremost, we teach children to back float with their face out of the water so that, at a bare minimum, they could calmly wait for someone to assist them,” Walker said. “Depending on the age, we would move in to Swim, Float, Swim, teaching them to catch their breath, then roll over and swim in any forward motion.”

Jump, Push, Turn, and Grab is mostly pool-related, she said. “It is teaching them if they jump in over their head or deeper than anticipated, to be able to calmly come back to the surface and take a breath. They are taught to push off the bottom, come to the surface, take a breath, then turn and grab for the wall to get back to safety.

“This is a program the Y passionately believes in and offers regardless of funding,” Walker said. But the added funding from the Rays means added classes.

The Y has typically offered this program only during Hillsborough County’s spring break. The goal this year, with additional support from the Tampa Bay Rays, is to also offer the program during the month of May and again in late August, probably before summer break ends, Walker said. Specific dates have not yet been decided.

The Tampa Metropolitan YMCA will serve about 560 kids with the program, primarily in Hillsborough County and at one location in Pasco County.

“We do have information on our web site, which is www.tampaymca.org. We share the message about the program within our walls and have had a great relationship with media outlets getting the word out.”

In this area, the program will be offered at the Campo Family YMCA and at the North Brandon Family YMCA. The phone number for the Campo Family YMCA is 813-684-1371. The number for the North Brandon Family YMCA is 813-685-5402.

The state of Florida also offers information on drowning prevention at www.watersmartfl.com. Learn steps to take to secure a pool and protect children by reducing childhood drowning and increasing pool safety.

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